Indie Spotlight: J. Saman
Indie Spotlight this week welcomes J. Saman! If you’re familiar with my book reviews, you’ll know that I’ve reviewed four books by J. Saman already. She’s a favorite around here! In honor of her newest release Beautiful Potential, which was released on Tuesday (2/6), I decided to pick her brain! If you haven’t checked out her books, I highly recommend them if you’re a romance reader!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was never one of those kids that said pop star (I’m not a fan of pop music) or an astronaut or teacher. I liked understanding illness and dissecting things. Yes, I was a weird kid. That sort of weirdness made me want to be a nurse. I have an aunt who was an ICU nurse and she always made it sound so cool and exciting. I was also very interested in all things science so that seemed to coincide with that desire.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on the story. I realize that’s a bullshit answer, but it’s true. Some books, like Start Again and Beautiful Potential, take me only a couple of weeks. I get an idea in my head and I run away with it. The story takes over and writes itself. Some books, like Start Over, take much longer. Love Rewritten also took forever and I’m still not sure I got it right. Other books take years. And I do mean years because I’ll get an idea, write maybe 30-60k words of it and then it falls apart. Sometimes I come back to it and steal parts to incorporate in something else. But often times, they sit in my abyss of unfinished works. On Average, I’d say most of my books take about a month or so to write. That does not include editing or revision.
When did you write your first book? How old were you?
That I’m not entirely sure on. I’ve written stories and concepts of books forever. Since I was a teenager and possibly before that. My first book, Forward was written when I was in graduate school. It was probably the most conscious ‘book’ I had written up to that point. It was a tension reliever from the stress of school and I never really planned on publishing it, even after I finished it. I was twenty-five I think when I wrote that, but I didn’t publish it until nine years later. After that, I couldn’t stop.
Do you write full-time or part-time? What does your schedule often look like?
I would not say I’m a full-time writer because I do have a job as a nurse practitioner that I work per diem (as needed/whenever I want). I’m also a mother of three girls who are, in themselves, a full-time job. They run me freaking ragged.
But any free time I have, I write. I probably write more than the average author who also has a 40/hour day job and a family at night. I do try and write at least an hour a day. Most times, I do a lot more, sometimes I do less. It all depends on my schedule with my family and how creative I’m feeling. I typically to take a month or so off after I finish a book. That’s about how long it takes to reset my brain with a fresh idea. I will say that sometimes when I’m really going with something, I can write for hours. Especially if my husband has the kids 😉
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Both of those are very different answers. At least for me. Information is easy to answer. I get some stuff straight from Google like every other human in the world with access to a computer or phone. Other times, like with the medical stuff, that’s just my own person bank of info. Nothing too sexy there.
Ideas for my books come from all over the place. A lot of them come from dreams I’ve had. Actually, I think that’s where Start Again and Beautiful Potential came from. The others, I don’t know, honestly. I seriously cannot pinpoint something specific most times. I’ll get to the end of the book and think, where the hell did I get that one? Start Over took me three solid tries to get the way I wanted it, so that one is still my dark angry cloud. Start With Me was pretty much written before I even started the story as much of Claire’s and Kyle’s backstories were written. It was just a matter of figuring out their story together and the journey I wanted them to go on. As close as I can figure, an idea or thought jumps into my head, or I read something that strikes me and I think, yeah, I could do something with that.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Um … drink? Just kidding. Well, sort of. I like to be with my husband and girls as much as I possibly can. My husband is one of those guys who likes to do stuff, so we take them to the park or the various play areas that they love or out for lunch and to the movies.
I love to travel and if I had an endless budget and time and my big girl didn’t have to go to school and my husband didn’t have to work, I’d probably try to go around the world. As it is, we try to go on 1-2 vacations a year. Like freaking Disney World. God, I’ve given that place more money, sweat, and tears than I like to think about. I also like having alone time with my hubby in any form I can get it and going out with my girlfriends, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like.
I enjoy watching sports (primarily football) and running around. Yeah, I’m sort of boring. I don’t have any crazy awesome hobbies other than writing and really, when I have spare time, that’s what I’m doing.
What’s one of the surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That some people would actually like them? Ha. It’s kinda true though. When I released Forward, I never expected anyone to buy it, let alone like it. It was a total shock. Even more so with Start Again, which came next. But I think the real answer to that question is that I learned that there is SO much more to writing books than just slapping words on paper and shooting it out into the universe.
There is a real method to the madness. Covers and blurbs and marketing and newsletters and all kinds of other things that make my head spin. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. About my boundaries as a writer. What I feel comfortable putting out there for others to read and see and what I don’t. As I mentioned, I’m a mom of three, and my girls are little, so I don’t exactly love the PTO or the pre-school knowing that I write romance with steamy sex scenes and a shit ton of swears. I keep my private life and my author life separate as much as possible.
I’m also surprised by the way some indies do not support each other. That’s not always the case. I’ve met a lot of incredible authors and made good ‘friends’ that way. They offer help and love and support. But there are some people who enjoy bringing other authors down and to me, that was the most surprising (and abhorrent) things ever.
Writer’s often joke about their Google history and how bizarre it can be. What’s the strangest thing you’ve researched?
I have researched some crazy things over the years. And yes, I’ll even laugh at myself for them. It’s one of those #writerslife things, I guess. Some are, of course, pretty normal. Like how long does it take to get from Dallas to Denver. Or, what does the inside of a police station in Seattle look like (haven’t had firsthand experience with that one). Boring shit like that, but no less imperative. But I’ve also researched, what’s the best type of gun for a woman to use, how to fly a helicopter, awkward sexual positions (always trying to find something new and fun), fantasy play including spanking and minor BDSM stuff, the latest trends in date rape drugs, hate groups, how to hold a person hostage and others that will have me on an FBI watchlist.
What made you choose self-publishing route instead of traditional publishing?
When I first released Forward, I was the most clueless, brainless woman on the planet about writing and publishing. I never even considered traditional publishing. Not for a second. I just slapped on a shitty cover and hit publish on Amazon. The first go at Forward was a mess too (even though it sold somewhat decently – weird). It was not well edited and the cover? God, I still shiver at that one.
I did the same with Start Again, though by that point, I had figured some things out and my learning curve was growing fast. It wasn’t until after that point that I thought about traditional publishing. Someone, a blogger, suggested I send in Start Again to a few reputable publishers. I considered it for a while, spoke to some people who had gone the traditional route and then decided against it.
For one, I figured I’d be rejected flat out and rejection and I are not friendly enough that I could let that bitch roll off my back so easily. Second, I like having control over my stories. I like being able to play around with covers or make changes to a plot line after the book has already been out for six months. I like my freedom as a writer and wasn’t sure how traditional publishing would alter that.
Where did the inspiration for Beautiful Potential come from?
I think I sort of brushed across this before. I had a dream about a woman who had a really tragic past (yeah, I won’t give any spoilers) and as a result, she couldn’t commit, even to the man who was perfect for her. When I woke up, I wrote down the idea and then realize, that it sounded a bit too close to Claire from Start With Me. It’s probably why I had that dream in the first place because I had finished writing it shortly before.
So as I thought about it and my dream, I flipped it around so that the guy had this awful tragic past. It hardened him. Made him an insufferable asshole at times, but after he meets the girl, Gia, he starts to come back to life. I loved writing this book. The heartache in it broke me. The love put me back together and the characters felt alive to me.
I feel like a lot of times, as writers, we write to what people want to read (as we should in some cases). Gia and Finn are not easy. They’re flawed and do things that make us want to shake them. But to me, that felt genuine and relatable. Like you could know these people in real life.
I set it in New York because that was always one of my favorite places I’ve lived and I made Gia a midwife because I’ve done an OB rotation and it was my favorite. I made Finn an ED attending because I have experience with that and because the ED is exciting. But really, after the rough outline was formed, their story just flowed out of me. I have no real idea where the specifics came from after I started writing.
How hard was it to create something different from the Start Again series?
Not hard at all. I have (including Beautiful Potential) 6 books published. They are all different. Forward is about a nurse and a doctor and it’s set in NYC, but it’s a crazy love triangle and the characters are very different than Beautiful Potential. Love Rewritten is a new adult/college story with no medical characters in it at all. That one is probably the most different out of anything I’ve written and people either love that one or they don’t. It’s not the easiest to get, I think. As I mentioned, I also have way too many partially written stories in my piggy bank, most are nothing like Start Again. That said, anything I’ve worked on since that series, I have to say, oh wait, this character is a bit too much like Ivy. Or, I can’t make this one as nutty as Claire. Or, does he look too much like Ryan? Yeah, let’s change the eye color. That series, I think will always be the mark I hold my other works against.
All-time favorite character or couple you’ve written?
That’s like asking me to pick which one of my children I like the most! They are all my babies and I love them all. But if pressed… I probably love Ryan Grant the most of the men I’ve written. He’s just…shit, he’s perfection. Even when he made mistakes, they were never enough for me to stop loving him or thinking he was perfect. In fact, I wrote in his massive mistake because he felt too perfect to me. He needed a flaw dammit. Ryan is the character I’ve written the most. He’s in Start Over and Start With Me and has a decent size role in both of those. I felt like I understood his personality and I wanted to eat him up with a spoon before I licked it clean.
Sigh. Okay, back from a dreamy world of Ryan Grant. Favorite female character is Lara from Forward. She has a tiny cameo in Beautiful Potential actually. She was sassy and strong and fragile and torn and so goddamn real. Lara was just real to me. I got her in a way I don’t always get my characters. Like Ivy. I love Ivy, but she and I are so very different as people. Lara was different and as I wrote that story, I vacillated between Tom and Levi and up until the end, I couldn’t decide who I wanted her to end up with. I almost changed that up twice.
Favorite couple is shockingly enough, not Kate and Ryan. I think it’s actually Kyle and Claire. They were ridiculously fun to write. But I just loved them together. They had drama, but their friendship was incredible and strong and the way they told each other things, still gets me. In fact, I think that piano bench scene in Start With Me is still my all-time favorite. Finn and Gia from Beautiful Potential are close in that race. They were a hot mess of a couple. Like Jesus Christ, a mess. But they had this undeniable chemistry and heat and I couldn’t get enough of them when I reread the story. I just wanted to keep writing more.
What are you working on now?
Yikes. That question. Too many things at once is the proper answer. I finished a book that I’m sitting on for a bit. I need to send it to the editor and then revise whatever needs revising after that. But I want to make it into a series. Sort of like the Start Again series, but in a different world with completely different characters. This one is about a girl who lives in Boston and gets that midnight call. The one that is never good. Anyway, she goes to the hospital and runs into her ex-childhood love. That is the vaguest description in the history of vague descriptions, but I can’t exactly give too much away. As with all my stories, there is drama and angst and something a bit unexpected.
I have the second in that series plotted out and I’d started writing it and then…crap, I stopped. My mind got distracted with something old I’ve had in that piggy bank of mine. I have no idea if I’ll be able to finish it because it’s been a disaster for years (which is why I never finished it). If I do manage to pull my shit together and finish it, I might release it before I release the first finished book in the series.
We’ll see how it all pans out, but I’m hoping to release at least 3 books this year and Beautiful Potential is only the first.